Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

The End of the Affair: Review

This is an awful movie based on a fabulous book. Don’t see it. Continue reading

April 22, 2009 Posted by | Film, Literature | Leave a comment

Quote of the Week: John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

– John Updike, “Seven Stanzas at Easter”

(HT: Ross Douthat)

April 13, 2009 Posted by | Literature | 1 Comment

The Camera Lies

According to a widely followed dictum enunciated by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, “[i]f in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.” As a principle of drama this is, of course, quite sensible. But it leads to the odd effect that, unless you have had personal experience with firearms, chances are you have never seen a gun without soon seeing it used to shoot someone. And even taking into account the fictional nature of most of these “shootings,” it is not surprising that a person who knew about guns only through film and television might have an exaggerated sense of the dangerousness of firearms, or of their association with murder and violence.

Many people are rightly wary of negative depictions of members of various minority groups, on the grounds that they may serve to re-enforce stereotypes about those groups, particularly among those whose main experience of those groups is from film and television. In each case the basic principle is the same. When you lack much personal experience of a group, object, or environment, and encounter fictional depictions of it, you are liable to accept those depictions as accurate, even if they are not a true reflection of reality. Continue reading

November 24, 2008 Posted by | Capitalism, Culture, Family, Film, Guns, Literature, Media | Leave a comment

Opening Lines

The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no-one in the room but the corpse. – Charles Williams, War in Heaven

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina [this, btw, is not only false, but demonstrates Tolstoy’s fundamental unsoundness]

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested. —Franz Kafka, The Trial

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. —Samuel Beckett, Murphy

I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground

Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden. —David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System Continue reading

September 29, 2008 Posted by | Literature | 1 Comment

Culture as Popular Culture

As we head into the summer doldrums, I know that many of you are probably suffering severe withdrawal from their favorite TV programs. Luckily, I have just the thing: A ten part lecture series! The lectures, by Prof. Paul Cantor of the University of Virginia, examines the interactions between commerce and art, and studies the myriad ways in which artists have been influenced by economic concerns.

Lecture One introduces the topic.

Lecture Two focuses on Shakespeare, and the ways in which his plays were influenced by economic considerations arising out of the Globe Theater, and Royal patronage.

Lecture Three examines the economics of painting, dealing in particular with the rise of painting in the merchant cities of Italy and the Netherlands. Continue reading

June 25, 2008 Posted by | Capitalism, Culture, Economics, History, Literature | Leave a comment

Is Good Fiction Immoral?

Adam Greenwood ponders:

Lying is immoral. Fiction doesn’t lie because the author is honest that he’s inventing. (Though sometimes authors can edge up to the line with “autobiographical novels” or Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code or Wolf’s I Am Charlotte Simmons that the author claims is based on research and fact.)

What fiction does do is to seduce the reader into forming attachments to people who don’t exist. Is this immoral? My gut says darn straight it is. And what’s worse is that the best fiction is the most guilty. The more deeply realized the characters, the stronger and more genuine the attachment.

But if fiction is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Any way out of the dilemna?

Adam goes on to offer one solution (which I don’t find particularly plausible), and hints that he has another one in reserve, though he doesn’t say what it is (I have my hunches). My suggestion, for what it’s worth, would be to ask question why one would think that causing the reader to form attachments with non-existent people is immoral.

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Literature, Morality | 1 Comment

The Case for Book Burning

When Vladimir Nabokov died he left behind him the manuscript for an unfinished novel called The Original of Laura. Prior to his death, Nabokov ordered the manuscript burned, as he did not wish to have his work published in such a raw and incomplete form. However, Dmitri, his son an heir, has never been able to follow through with this request, and the manuscript remains locked inside a Swiss safety deposit box. But he cannot put off the decision inevitably. At 73, with his own death on the horizon, he has been once again weighing the question of whether to follow his father’s wishes and burn what he has called “the most concentrated distillation of [my father’s] creativity,” or should he release the manuscript to the world? To burn or not to burn? That is the question.

Tom Stoppard, speaking from a writer’s perspective, says burn it.

Tyler Cowan, speaking from an economist’s, says don’t.

This is a question that used to really vex me. Continue reading

February 16, 2008 Posted by | Ethics, Literature | Leave a comment